Some Weekend Quotations-Men Of Systems

‘The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.’

-Smith, Adam. Part VI-Of The Character Of Virtue“. The Theory Of Moral Sentiments. 

A brief introduction to Adam Smith’s ‘Theory Of Moral Sentiments’

Beware the men of systems, moralizers, rationalists, idealists and utopians:


As previously posted: Steven Poole at Aeon: ‘We Are More Rational Than Those Who Nudge Us.’

‘And so there is less reason than many think to doubt humans’ ability to be reasonable. The dissenting critiques of the cognitive-bias literature argue that people are not, in fact, as individually irrational as the present cultural climate assumes. And proponents of debiasing argue that we can each become more rational with practice. But even if we each acted as irrationally as often as the most pessimistic picture implies, that would be no cause to flatten democratic deliberation into the weighted engineering of consumer choices, as nudge politics seeks to do’

A 20th century address of such problems:

‘But my object is not to refute Rationalism: its errors are interesting only in so far as they reveal its character.  We are considering not merely the truth of a doctrine, but the significance of an intellectual fashion in the history of post-Renaissance Europe. And the questions we must try to answer are: What is the generation of this belief in the sovereignty of technique? When springs this supreme confidence in human ‘reason’ thus interpreted? What is the provenance, the context of this intellectual character?  And in what circumstances and with what effect did it come to invade European politics?’

Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism In Politics“. Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Liberty Fund, 1991. Print. (Pg 17).

Related On This Site: Cass Sunstein’s got to create some space between the Bloomberg backlash and the totalitarians on the Left: Daddy’s Gonna Make You Do It

I’ve got enough friends, thanks: Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Via The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Bats Away Calls For Resignation After He Sought Special Treatment’

As I see things, by the time institutional rules are being written and enforced not by those with the most talent, making the most sacrifices, with their own skin in the game (the people whose habits, skills and resources you most need), but by secondary and tertiary actors pursuing their interests, there is already a lot of rot.

Public institutions and political parties, at any given time, are full of a lot second- and third-raters, and a lot of rot.  Even among talented people, meaning well and making serious sacrifices, you’ve got to get the incentives right to keep hope of competency and to stay ahead of the rot.

In a voluntary system, the people whose habits, skills and resources you most need often are often the first to flee from the institutions charged with public obligations if they have the resources to do so (it’s not merely a matter of race, but the pursuit of rational self-interest and basic human nature).

Cities are places of serious freedom, competition and inequality.

In inner city schools, particularly, the social problems are often so grave there is little hope, but the below may be a special indicator of rot:

Don’t forget:  It’s the kid ready to learn, eager to engage, with some care and concern for his/her natural gifts who most loses out amongst kids who are maladjusted, acting-up, potentially violent, and who place no internalized value on learning.

It doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have some moral obligation to our fellow citizens, but I think it does mean that we all need the freedom to discuss the rules governing our interactions with our fellow citizens, and the kinds of arrangements into which we choose to enter. These are reciprocal relationships full of hopes, ambitions and dreams.

Wouldn’t you want as much?

May you let others be free to do as much.

As previously posted:

Full post here.

‘Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn’t need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor’s unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary.’

Diane Ravitch seemed to think that Michelle Rhee didn’t allow the people who need to ulimately take control of their own lives do so…which is why she was voted out.

Yet, the endemic poverty and political corruption in D.C. has led to an untenable situation, not able to be solved by those who hold up ideals of democracy broadly either.

This is still not a reason to get into bed with the status quo, and all the political, ideological and monied interests involved who want to keep things as they are and get their share.

Judge the men of systems, moralizers, rationalists, idealists and utopians not by intentions, but by outcomes:

Also On This Site:  From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Rhee stated much the same here:  She didn’t with the people who I are most involved…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

Walter Russell Mead has a series built upon the argument that the ‘blue’ progressive social model (building the Great Society) is defunct because America will have to adjust to new economic and global realities.   In the [then] current post, he focuse[d] on the part of the model that creates and directs government agencies to try and alleviate inner-city poverty and its problems for black folks.

‘This is one danger for the Black middle class and it’s an urgent and obvious one: the good jobs are going away — and they won’t be quite as good anymore.  The second danger is subtler but no less important.  In the past, government work served to integrate ethnic minorities and urban populations into society at large.  In the current atmosphere of sharpening debate over the role and cost of government, the ties of so much of the Black middle class to government employment may make it harder, not easier, for Blacks to take advantage of the opportunities that the emerging Red Age economy offers.’

A quote from John Locke, found here:

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, however colour’d with the Name, Pretences, or Forms of Law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an appeal to Heaven.”

Self-Interest, Moral Sentiments & Rationalism-Some Links

Many reactions to the market are moral ones, from the anti-corporate, romantically primitive, ideological collectivists on the Left to the biblically inclined, revelatory faithful who clearly see in the teachings of Jesus Christ reasons to doubt:

And Larry Arnhart looks at a Straussian: ‘Joseph Cropsey’s Straussian Attack On Adam Smith:’

‘Thus, Smith showed how the opulence and liberty of a commercial society would provide philosophers like Hume and himself with the intellectual commerce, the individual liberty, and the leisured independence necessary for living a philosophic life with their friends. Cropsey ignores all of this because it contradicts his argument that there is no place for the intellectual virtues of philosophy in Smith’s commercial society.’

Worth a read.


A brief introduction to Adam Smith’s ‘Theory Of Moral Sentiments’

Beware the men of systems, moralizers, rationalists, idealists and utopians:


As previously posted: Steven Poole at Aeon: ‘We Are More Rational Than Those Who Nudge Us.’

‘And so there is less reason than many think to doubt humans’ ability to be reasonable. The dissenting critiques of the cognitive-bias literature argue that people are not, in fact, as individually irrational as the present cultural climate assumes. And proponents of debiasing argue that we can each become more rational with practice. But even if we each acted as irrationally as often as the most pessimistic picture implies, that would be no cause to flatten democratic deliberation into the weighted engineering of consumer choices, as nudge politics seeks to do’

Taxing soda in Seattle schools has unintended consequences. It’s not just taxation, it’s banning happy meals altogether.

Related On This Site: Cass Sunstein’s got to create some space between the Bloomberg backlash and the totalitarians on the Left: Daddy’s Gonna Make You Do It

I’ve got enough friends, thanks: Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

Leo Strauss argued there is great danger in this approach, i.e. the problems of Europe. Political science, the social sciences, economics and the explanatory power of these products of reason and rationalism could increasingly form the epistemological foundation for explaining the world, people’s interior lives, how we ought to live and what we ought to do. This includes where our rights come from and who should be in charge: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Two Friday Links-So, You’re ‘Liberal?’

Glenn Reynolds spends some time with Russ Roberts introduction to Adam Smith’s ‘Theory Of Moral Sentiments

———————

Here’s a nice contrast:

Of course, there was a soda ban in Seattle, and now a soda tax in Berkeley, whose efficacy even some at Vox challenge (the kind of skirmishes between the activist base on the one hand…and the techno/bureaucrat aspiring journalistic outlets you can expect should Obamacare stay, mirrored even in the Bay Area itself with all the rising rents).

When you realize such sentiment is deeply connected to moral impulses, moralism (for thee but not for me), and often derives its reasoning from ideology, then the activism and emotion driving much Leftist and progressive politics can make more sense.

The control and illiberal impulses aren’t even paid much attention by true believers aiming for political power and meeting goals and deadlines, for they are simply bringing about a more just, verdant and equal world, and fighting against their enemies, and righteously helping the less fortunate within their ideology.

In fact, it may be necessary in order live up to the ideals and be ‘authentic.’

Taxing soda in Seattle schools has unintended consequences.  It’s not just taxation, it’s banning happy meals altogether.

Related On This Site: Sunstein’s got to create some space between the Bloomberg backlash and the further Left: Daddy’s Gonna Make You Do It…Behavioral economics-Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Anthony Randazzo At Reason’s Hit And Run: ‘The Case Against Libertarian Paternalism’

Sheldon Richman At Reason: ‘Classical Liberalism Vs. Modern Liberalism’Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’

I’m not always libertarian, but I join the cause in battling this kind of ideology and collectivism: Repost-‘Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Addition: Friedman’s view of liberty is one of voluntary cooperative action.  Anything more is an injustice to the individual and a serious threat to individual liberty (transferring too much power to the State through social programs like Social Security, Welfare etc and the injustice of taxation upon individuals and the dangers of the well-intentioned and do-gooders from the New Deal on).  The voluntary exchanges that occur between people pursuing their own self-interest in the marketplace has been the greatest driver of human freedom and the greatest liberator from the natural human conditions of poverty, privation and want.  Friedman merges Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Thomas Jefferson’s separation of powers:  Free To Choose 

Noam Chomsky also shares a view that the individual ought to be free to enter into voluntary cooperative action (community councils or faculties in universities), but believes that to be achieved by perhaps only anarchy (where he retreats) or anarcho syndicalism, or libertarian socialism.  I don’t find anarchy to be tenable in protecting individual liberty.  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge.

Leo Strauss may not have been a believer, but he did want the individual to be free from the structures that developed in Europe these past centuries.  The triumph of Reason (historicism and positivism which lead to relativism and nihilism) over some form of Revelation, or revealed truth. Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Food for thought.

Related On This Site:  How do conservatism and libertarianism deal with Martin Luther King…?:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”…How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Walter Russell Mead says the Great Society is over:  A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”